Croydon Councillors and Labour party activists spent International Women’s Day rallying outside the Family Justice Centre in Croydon, in protest against funding cuts.
The centre, which helps women, men and children suffering from domestic violence, is set to lose almost £100,000 worth of funding. It announced that, as a consequence, two members of staff will be cut, including company Director Jill Madison, who leaves today.
Harriet Harman officially launched the Croydon Labour Women’s Forum campaign to save the centre last Wednesday at the Croydon Labour gala dinner.
In response to the campaign, a Croydon Council spokeswoman defended the cuts saying: “There are no plans to close Croydon’s Family Justice Centre. In fact, an additional £30,000 is being invested in services that support women and girls who have been victims of violence.”
However many have contested this. A statement by the campaigners said: “The £30,000 ‘increase’ put forward by the Conservative Council in their new budget is not to the Family Justice Centre but to the Family Resilience Team, which covers domestic violence only as part of 5 broader issues.”
Sara Kahn, 50, who was one of the protesters at the rally said: “This facility should be out there for women – and even for men nowadays.”
Kahn was a victim of domestic violence herself. When she separated from her partner she had no work, a young child as well as expecting another baby; and the Family Justice Centre was not an available service yet.
“No one wanted to help me, I had no one to talk to,” she said. Speaking of the centre, she added: “It’s a shame we’ve come so far forward to take a step back again.”
At the rally, councillor Toni Letts branded funding cuts “madness”. She was keen to emphasise their severity in times that see the centre helping more sections of the community than ever before: “we are seeing more and more women come in from ethic minority communities, more calls from men, as well as older people suffering from emotional stress and mental and physical abuse. The council are sending out a message that says women don’t count, victims don’t count. How do you put a financial cost on that contribution to society?”
The centre, which opened in 2005 and helps over 1,000 women each month, was the first of its kind in Europe. It offers victims of domestic and family violence help in rebuilding their lives through cooperation and access to legal and medical services, social services, housing counsellors and education groups.
This is the second consecutive year in which the centre has lost funding, having already had £96,000 cut from its budget last year. Its housing officer, paid councillors and dedicated police teams have now been forced to leave.
If you would like to sign an online petition against the cuts at the Family Justice Centre in Croydon visit: croydonfirst.org.uk.
by Sophie Mahon and Maebh Nig Uidhir